‘Wayde will be back’

Saturday Star - - SPORT -

“You have to be pre­pared for in­juries and ill­ness which sets you back and I’ve seen it with Thuso Mpuang for in­stance where it took us five years to get him from start­ing out in ath­let­ics to where I got him to a level win­ning na­tional ti­tles and qual­i­fy­ing for the Olympics.” Botha and Van Niek­erk have ex­pe­ri­enced the peaks and troughs of in­ter­na­tional sport in which time she took the phe­nom from an in­jury-prone ath­lete with im­mense po­ten­tial to one of the great­est sprint­ers in the world.

With the in­juries that had dogged him in his early years fi­nally in the past, the duo were on a world­wide cru­sade from 2014, con­quer­ing one track meet­ing af­ter an­other.

But their good run of the last three years came to a screech­ing halt when Van Niek­erk sus­tained me­dial and lat­eral tears of the menis­cus, as well as a torn an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment (ACL), in a Celebrity TAG match in Oc­to­ber.

Van Niek­erk went un­der the knife two weeks ago in the United States, and faces a long pe­riod of re­cov­ery and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion be­fore he can make a re­turn to the track.

Al­though the in­jury comes as a ma­jor blow to both men­tor and pro­tégé, Botha is the eter­nal op­ti­mist, be­liev­ing her charge will be back stronger and faster.

“These set­backs cross your path and one learns how to deal with them but, I can’t deny it, they are ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to process,” she says.

“But it is im­por­tant to put it be­hind you as soon as pos­si­ble and strive to cre­ate some­thing even more pos­i­tive out of this neg­a­tive sit­u­a­tion. It took us five years to get Wayde to record the times he has been run­ning over the last two sea­sons or so.”

Van Niek­erk is cur­rently in the United States as part of the first phase of his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ahead of his re­turn to South Africa for a short stint be­fore trav­el­ling to Doha to Dr Louis Holtzhausen for the sec­ond part.

“Wayde and I have a strong bond where we have faith in a higher power, a God that has guided our lives over the last five years,” Botha says. “The op­er­a­tion was a suc­cess, Wayde is im­prov­ing very well but my first name over the next few weeks and months will be ‘Pa­tience’.”

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